Donald Trump had a busy day Wednesday. He went to Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso to meet first responders and victims recovering from last weekend’s deadly assaults. In between those hospital visits, he was active on Twitter.
What were the topics of his myriad tweets? I’m glad you asked. He:
- Commented on the New York Times headline controversy;
- Whined about other countries cutting interest rates in response to trade war uncertainties;
- Complained about Joe Biden’s campaign speech;
- Seethed about critical coverage from Fox News’ Shepard Smith;
- Whined, with absolutely no factual foundation, about the mayor of Dayton and Ohio’s junior senator;
- Ranted about Joaquin Castro;
- Vented about how Democrats keep calling out the president’s racist rhetoric as ... racist.
That’s an awful lot of off-topic commentary for a day ostensibly devoted to helping two wounded communities heal. However, my personal favorite of his tweets was this one:
It took less than 100 characters for the president of the United States to segue from visiting wounded citizens to making it all about himself. As the Daily Beast’s Asawin Suebsaeng put it, “It underscored a reality that’s become obvious to anyone who has ever worked for or even casually observed Trump: He’ll find a way to make nearly any national tragedy into an airing of his personal grievances, and neither he nor nearly anything else will change in the process.” Or, like I said Sunday, Trump cannot comprehend grief, he only understands grievance.
Wednesday was merely the latest example of Trump’s abject failure as a head of state. The past week has also highlighted a deeper pathology within this administration, however: This administration is so dysfunctional that it cannot even stay on top of global tensions.
The administration’s dysfunction is obvious. Trump is obsessed with his day-to-day grievances; his attention span for anything outside migration and trade is minuscule. He has undercut his foreign policy subordinates so frequently that they no longer serve as reliable proxies for him. Would you trust an assurance from John Bolton or Mike Pompeo at this point?
Meanwhile, it is not like the rest of the world has hit pause while the United States sorts out its own unpleasantness. Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass tweeted over the weekend a short list of entropic forces gripping the globe:
According to Axios’ Mike Allen, the Eurasia Group’s Ian Bremmer recently told his clients his “geopolitical fat tail risks” for the rest of 2019. They included much of what Haass tweeted, and added some others, including U.S. conflicts with Iran and Russia, as well as Italian dysfunction. Bremmer added, “if in a normal geopolitical environment these would be, individually, 1-5% scenarios, over the coming year they’re more like 10-30%. [I]n other words, we should expect at least one or two to actually happen.”
Those who advocate foreign policy restraint might suggest that the United States cannot solve every global problem. This is certainly true, but there are two rejoinders worth considering. First, the literal least the United States could do is to not be the global engine of instability — and there are way too many conflicts and flashpoints where this is true.
Second, the United States should be expected to act as an arbiter between loyal allies. It does not serve the U.S. national interest to have Japan and South Korea at each other’s throats. A normal administration would at least attempt to mediate this dispute; according to the New York Times, “State Department officials had said they want the two countries to work it out on their own.” If the Trump administration can’t handle this case between two close allies, then there is zero chance it can mediate between India and Pakistan over Kashmir.
Look, I am not saying that the Obama or Bush or Clinton administrations would have solved any of the crises listed above. None of those administrations were perfect, and many of these problems are long-lasting. Still, they would have tried, and I bet they could have patched a few of these conflicts over for a decent spell. Furthermore, other countries would have looked to the United States as the appropriate convener of the salient disputants.
No one thinks this about the Trump administration. The president tweets while the world burns.